Greg and I met when I was 15 and he was 16. We dated for 6 years and married when I was 21 and he was 22 on May 28, 1994.
We were both believers in Christ. We both had strong Christian families with parents who had solid marriages and who had set pretty good examples for us.
I was sure this whole marriage thing was going to be a piece of cake!
Our Early Years
A lot of the misunderstandings we had in those early years could have been prevented if we had a better understanding of the differences between men and women and about the different personality types. Or if we had a strong mentoring couple to help guide us or some really great counseling, books, or resources.
But because I didn’t grasp how different we were and that it was actually a good thing that we were not identical—I spent over 14 years of our marriage telling God to change Greg. And telling Greg he needed to change.
I didn’t focus on all his strengths and good qualities. (And he actually had a lot of those.)
I prayed for things like:
- He needs to talk with me more.
- He needs to quit watching TV so much and spend hours connecting with me each day.
- He should do a better job leading me and our family.
- He should be a better Christian.
- He should tell me more about what he’s thinking and not be so quiet.
- He should give me a lot more compliments.
- He should enjoy me more.
And when those things didn’t change, and he became quieter and more withdrawn, I felt very unloved. So I upped my volume. And he pulled farther away. I didn’t understand!
It’s not that the things I wanted were necessarily “wrong.” Wanting to feel close to your husband and to feel loved by him is a good thing. But the way I approached my husband was not honoring to the Lord.
My Approach and Motives Weren’t Healthy
I was actually sabotaging the very things I wanted most. I didn’t realize that I was pushing Greg away by the way I spoke to him, the way I treated him, and even with my body language and tone of voice.
My approach was toxic, I just couldn’t see it. I was trying to control him and manipulate him into doing what I wanted.
I often told him all the things he needed to change and how he wasn’t doing a good job as a husband. I looked down on him. I was very generous with criticism about things he did, even in front of other people. I thought I was so much more spiritually mature than he was.
I truly believed I was always right and if he didn’t agree with me, he was automatically wrong. I couldn’t receive the idea that other perspectives could have merit, too. Pride can be very blinding.
If he tried to bring up another point of view or gently share his perspective, I would verbally shut him down. I was great with words and I had very powerful emotions to throw into the fire.
And even though I never called him names, threatened divorce, or physically assaulted him, I know now that he did not feel emotionally or spiritually safe with me—because he wasn’t.
He never told me how much I was hurting him. I thought he would tell me if I did something that offended him. But he just shut down more and more in silence.
I didn’t get it. Until God woke me up in December of 2008 when I read “Love and Respect” by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs.
Love and Respect Are Important Keys in Marriage
The book said that (based on Ephesians 5:22-30) a wife’s greatest need in marriage is love and a husband’s greatest need in marriage is respect. I had never thought about it like that, but I couldn’t argue that was what that passage was saying.
I discovered important things like:
- When wives feel loved by their husbands, they tend to automatically respond with more respect for their husbands. When husbands feel respected by their wives, they tend to automatically respond with more love for their wives.
- But when a wife feels unloved, she tends to have a knee-jerk disrespectful reaction. And when a husband feels disrespected, he tends to have a knee-jerk unloving reaction. And the “Crazy Cycle” spins round and round. Yep. That is where we have been. For years.
- The only way to break this cycle is for one brave soul to selflessly put his/her own needs on the back burner and begin to give the other spouse what they need. Even without a guarantee of reciprocity. Just to honor the Lord and to bless the spouse and marriage.
I really hadn’t done much learning or studying about respect. I realized when I read this, that I didn’t know what it even meant to Greg for me to treat him with respect.
Wow! Did I ever have a lot to learn about being the wife God wanted me to be!
I knew immediately that I probably wasn’t a very respectful wife. And I repented right away to Greg and to God for my 14.5 years of almost constant disrespect. What a shock when Greg immediately forgave me. I couldn’t have forgiven him for even small things that quickly back then.
- Maybe he wasn’t as far from God as I had assumed.
- And, gulp! Maybe I wasn’t as close to God as I had assumed, either.
When I asked Greg about what would feel disrespectful and what would feel respectful to him, he wasn’t sure he could articulate it.
So I decided I would study the topic. I didn’t want our marriage to suffer because I was ignoring any of my responsibilities as a Christian wife. So I spent the next three and a half years studying over 30 books, journaling, praying, and reading my Bible for three-five hours per day, seven days per week.
I didn’t care what it took, I was going to learn to be a godly wife!
I stopped demanding that God change Greg. And for the first time in my life, I began begging the Lord to change me.
Lord, Change Me! Whatever It Takes!
I dove headfirst into studying everything I could about godly womanhood, biblical marriage, and being a godly wife. It took me a LONG time to figure things out. I didn’t have a mentoring wife. And I didn’t get much feedback from Greg for a few years. But I was determined to understand God’s design and His wisdom!
Greg hung back, waiting to see if this was going to be a real change or just another of my brief fads. I had read other books and tried other approaches. Usually, after a few weeks, if he didn’t change and do what I wanted, I would give up in frustration and anger.
I honestly wasn’t sure if God could lead me through Greg. I didn’t know at the time that if I gave him some space and the chance to lead, that he could actually lead very well. I didn’t have any guarantee that Greg would change at all. I didn’t know if I would feel more loved in my marriage one day. Or if Greg would ever feel genuinely respected by me.
The only guarantee I had from God was that He was willing to change me if I was willing to lay everything bare before Him and let Him dig around in the darkest places of my mind and rip out the nasty stuff so He could heal me. I knew He could change me. And that had to be enough.
But God, What About Him?
Sometimes, I would try new things and work and work for weeks or months, and it seemed like we weren’t getting anywhere.
I would get frustrated, and pray, “God, I am trying so hard, and I don’t see Greg changing. He is still really quiet and shut down. He still doesn’t do all the things I want him to do for me!”
And God would so sweetly, gently speak to my soul, “April, why are you doing all of these things? Why do you want to change yourself? Is it just to please Me? Is it simply out of love and obedience for Me? Or is this just a new way to try to control Greg to get what you want from him? Are you still depending on what he does for your identity and security? Is he still your idol? Or are you looking to Me to meet the deepest needs of your soul?”
I decided that I wanted God to change me and that I wanted to obey God and pattern my life after His wisdom and His Word for me no matter if Greg ever changed or not. No matter if I ever felt more connection in our marriage or not. No matter if anyone else joined me. No matter what anyone else said or did. I decided that God was completely worthy of my all.
And even though it was scary, at first, this decision was LIBERATING and POWERFUL!
God broke the chains of codependency and my idolatry of my husband during those painstaking three plus years. He helped me learn to live for an Audience of One. He helped me see that the only thing that mattered was pleasing Him. Not anyone else. Not even myself.
The wild thing was, as I stopped demanding that Greg give me what I wanted and as I learned to selflessly be a blessing to him just to honor the Lord—God began to slowly… very, very slowly heal us both.
What Will Your Story Be?
I can’t guarantee you that if you decide to seek Christ first and allow Him to transform your life by the power of His Word, the Bible, and His Spirit, that your husband will be healed and your marriage will grow and flourish.
But I can tell you that if there is going to be healing, this is the path to take.
And I can tell you that God can heal and change you. And that you can live by His strength so that you don’t have to have constant regrets about what you think, say, and do. And you can have peace with God, knowing that you are allowing Him to conform you to the image of Christ.
You can know that God will honor your obedience and reward you with eternal rewards in heaven that nothing on this earth could rival.
And you can invite God, the sovereign Lord of the universe, to cleanse you and make you a powerful example and instrument in His hand to attract your husband toward Himself.
Ultimately, we each answer to God alone when this life is over. We each have free will. We don’t get to control other people’s decisions. God, Himself, doesn’t try to do that.
But what we can do is be as close to God as we can be. And we can allow God’s healing and love to pour into us and splash out of our lives to bless everyone we touch. We can be a godly influence on our husbands. We can choose to use our influence in ways that bring healing instead of dysfunction when Jesus is on the throne of our lives.
We can choose to live in the very center of God’s will for us and enjoy rich fellowship with Him no matter what circumstances we may face. He will help us through every trial and even use it all for our ultimate good and His glory. The painful times are often times of purification and refining fire.
For more about my story and to find a potential guide for your own journey into being a godly wife, check out The Peaceful Wife Book.
Verses For Reflection This Week
Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Matt. 7:3-5
And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. Hebrews 11:6
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. Gal. 1:10
Not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, Eph. 6:6
Can you relate to my story? Why or why not?
Is it a struggle for you to decide to honor Christ just because He is worthy of all of our love, submission, obedience, and trust? If so, what is the hardest part? If not, what helped you overcome your fear?
If you are dealing with severe issues in your marriage like abuse, uncontrolled mental illness, demonic possession, addictions, or infidelity please seek the wise counsel of an experienced, godly counselor you can trust. And seek out other resources as appropriate, as well—medical help, legal counsel, or police protection—if needed.
Things Got Worse When I Began to Change by The Restored Wife